Good Software Takes Ten Years. Get Used To it.

Good Software Takes Ten Years. Get Used To it.

“Make a ten year plan. Make sure you can survive for 10 years, because the software products that bring in a billion dollars a year all took that long. Don’t get too hung up on your version 1 and don’t think, for a minute, that you have any hope of reaching large markets with your first version. Good software, like wine, takes time.” – Joel Spolsky

Some of things he classifies as mistaken impressions, don’t seem to be true at this point. We’ve gotten a lot better at tossing together web apps at this point. It’s also pretty clear that are mitigation strategies to deal with them with, with at least a touch of luck, one can overcome them.

The thing that digs at me when I read this was the consideration of free to play on games. They have driven the (initial) purchase price to zero, but enabled the customer to pay an unlimited sum of money. In fact, in many pay to win games, there’s essentially a bidding war for top dog.

Here’s what I wonder…

Is the crashing and burning of the Facebook social games space a positive portent or a negative one? You see, they optimize the sort of company that executes through all of the cheats necessary to circumvent the “mistakes” that Joel lists. Zynga is case example number one. It appears to me that they have performed a vital public service by educating people en masse about the difference between fun and un-fun.

The problem is the costs to build are going to the moon.

Gah. So many disjointed thoughts. Let’s try to connect them together and apply them.

Concept #1: Building something which has lasting impact is hard and takes ten years. That lines up with everything I’ve done and seen.

Concept #2: Everywhere around you will be people attempting to avoid the consequences of concept #1 and specifically the hard work that entails.

Concept #3: This is doing great damage to the long term viability of software, especially games and music. It’s teaching customers bad lessons – making revenue hard to acquire. The cost of production continues to go up like mad – dramatically increasing risk.

Concept #4: Risk mitigation combined with a long term horizon is key. Doing this in mobile means lots of little  mutually interlocking bets which support each other. I really do believe the time of the BIG blockbuster thing is coming to an end.

Concept #5: The ratio of people looking to turn a quick buck vs. those looking to build something of longevity has shifted dramatically over the last 20 years to the worse.

George Lucas talked publicly about similar things impacting the movie industry a while back.

Note to self: find some good macro economics books.